It’s a bit mediaeval, isn’t it, knights in shining armour and noblemen on horseback slaying dragons and rescuing damsels in distress while throwing cloaks over puddles. A knight was supposed to show bravery, strength and skill in battle, to respect women, to defend the weak and the poor, to be generous to others and loyal to his Lord, family and friends.
The perfect knight was very important, with a duty to ‘Protect' the Church, to fight against treachery, to reverence the priesthood, to fend off injustice for the poor, to make peace in your own province, to shed blood for your brethren, and if needs must, to lay down your life.' Not much of that going on these days is there.
And being a Knight, it was not courteous to try to injure your enemy's horse. If you knocked your enemy off his horse, you should wait until he remounted before attacking again. If his horse took off, you should dismount from your own horse and fight your opponent on foot. You were meant to behave at all times with courtesy – so it was OK to kill one another, so long as one was polite and courteous first. And probably apologise afterwards.
Rules of Chivalry
There were several rules of Chivalry everyone was supposed to consider: Humility, Gratitude, Courage. Justice, Generosity, Discipline, Faith, and lastly Equality. But isn’t this where chivalry’s lines blur with courtesy?
These are some of the supposed modern rules of courtesy or of chivalry: open the door for a lady, show respect for others, walk on the outside of a footpath – originally to prevent her from getting splashed from street mud, but nowadays perhaps to prevent her bag from being ripped from her arm in a bike grab. Give up your seat, particularly to the elderly, infirm or pregnant. Pull out a woman’s chair before seating her at the table. Introduce your companion to your friends when they are meeting for the first time. Help her put on her coat, make sure your woman friend gets home safely, and lastly say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
Chivalry’s ancient code of behaviour still functions as dating etiquette, and even during the radically changing world of the 1990s, chivalry remained strong. And more or less intact. Chivalry means that you should be polite and courteous to a girl, especially on a date. Chivalry still allows the men to flex their muscles for the women, while playing the ‘nice guy.’ Many young men admit they'd jump at the chance to help out a damsel in distress, whether it be by lifting a heavy box or doing a math problem (even if they don't know the answer). Sharing your umbrella, even if it means you get a bit wet in the process, giving her your coat if she’s cold. When the waiter comes to your table, ask her first what she would like rather than blustering in with what you want.
Are we now getting into the area of politeness? Perhaps they are all blended together these days into polite, courteous chivalry? Having very polite, honest, and kind behaviour, especially by men towards women, the system of behaviour followed by knights in the medieval period of history put a high value on honour, kindness, and courage. The age of chivalry - polite and respectful.
Chivalry is still with us, even if in a considerably lighter version, simply because it’s such a useful tool for both sexes. As long as the more expensive forms are kept buried in the past, chivalry fits in its niche ideally. Keep in mind, slaying dragons may seem gallantly heroic, but a thoughtful and attentive gesture can be just as meaningful.
As Eyeore once said (he was a fictional character in the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne): ‘A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.’
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.